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Japanization, Japanisation or Japanification is the process by which Japanese culture dominates, assimilates, or influences other cultures. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, "To japanize" means "To make or become Japanese in form, idiom, style, or character".[1]

Modern period[edit]

In the modern day, many countries and regions in East Asia particularly South Korea and Taiwan, have absorbed and incorporated Japanese popular culture such as music and video for many years after Japanese growth during the 1980s and 1990s. Many Japanese films, especially soap operas are popular in Taiwan, South Korea and China among the younger generations after the movies are translated to their local languages. Japanese electronic products and food are found throughout East Asia.

Imperial period[edit]

Chinese name
Traditional Chinese皇民化運動
Simplified Chinese皇民化运动
Literal meaningmovement to make people become subjects of the emperor
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese日本化運動
Simplified Chinese日本化运动
Literal meaningmovement to make something more Japanese
Korean name
황민화운동 (alt.)
皇民化運動 (alt.)
Japanese name
皇民化政策 (alt.)
こうみんかせいさく (alt.)

In terms of World War II and military conquests, Japanization takes a negative meaning because of military conquests and forced introduction of Japanese culture by the government.

During the pre-imperial (pre-1868) period, a peaceful diplomacy was practiced, during which Japan did not expand much in territories beyond its own islands.


After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan began to follow the way of western imperialism and expansionism. in 1879, Japan officially annexed the Ryūkyū Kingdom, which was a tributary kingdom of both the Qing Dynasty and the Empire of Japan.

Though the Ryukyuan languages belong to the Japonic language family, the Japanese language is not intelligible to monolingual speakers of the Ryukyuan languages. The Japanese government regarded the Ryukyuan languages as dialects and began to promote the language "standardization" program. In schools, "standard" Japanese was promoted, and there portraits of the Japanese Emperor and Empress were introduced. Many high-ranking Japanese military officers went to inspect Okinawan schools to ensure that the Japanization was functioning well in the education system. This measure did not meet expectations in the beginning, partly because many local children's share of their heavy family labor impeded their presence in schools, and partly because people of the old Okinawan leading class received a more Chinese-style education and were not interested in learning "standard" Japanese. As measures of assimilation, the Japanese government also discouraged some local customs.[2]

At the beginning, these assimilation measures met stronger reluctance from local people. However, after China was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, people lost their confidence in China, and the reluctance against the Japanization, though it did not disappear, became weaker. Men and women began to adopt more Japanese-styled names.[2]


Taiwan was ceded to the Empire of Japan in 1895 as a result of the First Sino-Japanese War. At the beginning, Taiwan was governed rather like a colony. In 1936, following the arrival of the 17th governor-general, Seizō Kobayashi, there was a change in the Japanese governance in Taiwan.

Kobayashi was the first non-civilian governor-general since 1919. He proposed three principles of the new governance: the Kōminka movement (皇民化運動), industrialization, and making Taiwan as a base for the southward expansion.[3]

"Kōminka" literally means "to make people become subjects of the emperor". The program itself had three components. First, the "national language movement" (国語運動, kokugo undō) promoted the Japanese language by teaching Japanese instead of Taiwanese Hokkien in the schools and by banning the use of Taiwanese Hokkien in the press. Second, the "name changing program" (改姓名, kaiseimei) replaced Taiwanese's Chinese names with Japanese names. Finally, the "volunteers' system" (志願兵制度, shiganhei seidō) drafted Taiwanese subjects into the Imperial Japanese Army and encouraged them to die in service of the emperor.[4]


Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo 1940.1.1

In Korea during the Second World War the use of written Korean in education and publications was banned by the Empire of Japan, but this did not cause a significant change in the use of the Korean language, which remained widely used throughout the period of annexation.


  1. ^ "Japanization – definition of Japanization by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language".
  2. ^ a b JPRI Occasional Paper No. 8
  3. ^ 第一節 皇民化運動
  4. ^ Ching, Leo T. S. (2001). Becoming "Japanese": Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 93–95. ISBN 0-520-22553-8.

See also[edit]